Healthcare workers protest Māori Health Authority axing

Public healthcare staff and students (from left) Lianne Parkin, Alex Macmillan, Tiffany Trevino,...
Public healthcare staff and students (from left) Lianne Parkin, Alex Macmillan, Tiffany Trevino, Nihali Ambelkar, Kaushal Pillay and Dr Sarah Donald protest the scrapping of Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority) outside Dunedin Hospital yesterday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Dunedin healthcare workers took to the streets with "urgency" yesterday to protest the axing of the Māori Health Authority.

Yesterday, a Bill to disestablish Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority, was passed under urgency with the aim being to get the Bill through all three readings in one sitting.

The Bill passed 68 votes to 54, the vote split predominantly along party lines.

The move sparked a protest by a group of healthcare professionals in front of Dunedin Hospital.

Public health professor Alex Macmillan said the reason the protest was so spontaneous was because the government axed Te Aka Whai Ora, the Māori Health Authority, under urgency yesterday morning, which led to the group also protesting "under urgency".

The group was calling for the government to reinstate Te Aka Whai Ora, and to make it stronger than ever.

"We had no warning about this happening, so we had no time to gather our forces and obviously the healthcare workers in the hospital are really overburdened.

"We are not addressing the huge health burden caused by health inequality in our country.

"The nurses and the doctors and the health workers in the hospital are all working overtime, trying to deal with that huge health burden and don’t have time to come out and protest something they also support and know is the right thing to do."

Prof Macmillan said it had been proved time and time again the most effective way to address Māori health inequality was to have a Māori health authority.

"They did this without waiting for the Waitangi Tribunal hearing that was going to be ... [tomorrow], it feels incredibly undemocratic."

A Waitangi Tribunal hearing challenging the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora will begin today and end tomorrow.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon earlier defended rushing the Bill through.

"We have opposed the Māori Health Authority right from conception. We’ve been consistent about that in opposition.

"We went to an election campaign. We talked about what we would do in government, We’re following through on that."